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October 21st, 2015

Victory! Macy’s Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants

Victory! Macy's Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants Groovy Green Livin

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to Macy’s. I wanted to let them know that I was concerned about toxic chemicals that may be in products I bring into my home.  I shared with them that I’m especially concerned about toxic flame retardants, which are common in upholstered furniture.

It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in our stores continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals. They are known to migrate out of couches and other furniture, get into the dust inside our homes and make their way into our bodies.

For years, most couches and upholstered furniture across the U.S. contained high levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

Recent changes to the California flammability standard now provide better fire safety without the use of these toxic chemicals.

Leading retailers are already selling furniture without toxic flame retardants.  Ashley Furniture, Walmart, Ikea, Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, the Futon Shop, La-Z-Boy, Williams Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm), Ikea, Ethan Allen, and Restoration Hardware have either eliminated or committed to eliminate toxic flame retardants in all of their furniture.

I joined many others as part of the Mind the Store Campaign. Together we asked Macy’s, one of the biggest retailers of furniture in the country, to adopt a public policy and time-frame for eliminating toxic flame retardant chemicals in all furniture foam, textiles and backing, and clearly label all products nationwide in accordance with the new California labeling law.

Over the past two weeks, Macy’s received thousands of e-mails from customers encouraging them to address the harmful chemicals.

And guess what?! Macy’s listened!

Victory! Macy's Vows to Sell Furniture Free of Toxic Flame Retardants Groovy Green Livin

Victory! After much consumer pressure, Macy’s has agreed to ensure the furniture they sell is free of toxic flame retardants.

Macy’s let me know in an e-mail that they’re finally taking action on flame retardants in furniture. They said:

“We will be instructing any remaining suppliers who are using these chemicals to cease doing so.”

Thank you Macy’s for doing what’s right for our health.

Thank you to Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and the Mind the Store Campaign for their hard work on this issue and thank you to the thousands of people who took time to write to Macy’s to voice their concerns.

Change is happening. As buyers continue to demand flame retardant-free furniture, manufacturers have no other option but to listen. Together we made this happen!

If you have some time over the next few days please give Macy’s a shout out on social media.

Just click here if you’re on Twitter:

Where do you buy your furniture? Are you concerned about toxic flame retardants? 

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

photo credit: Macy’s 6/2014 Waterbury, CT. Pics by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube. #Macys #MacysStore via photopin (license)

June 4th, 2015

Are There Toxic Chemicals Hiding in Your Child’s Car Seat?

Hazardous Chemicals Found in Popular Child Car Seats Groovy Green Livin

Many young children spend hours in a car every week strapped into a car seat. When my kids were infants they basically lived in their car seat. I would drag them from activity to activity strapped in. The car seat snapped directly into the stroller during those first few years of life. If they fell asleep in the car I would bring the entire car seat into the house and let them continue their nap in the seat.

In a new study released today by the nonprofit Ecology Center  (at the consumer-friendly site, the findings show that some of our favorite car seats are filled with toxic chemicals.

Looking back, I wonder how many hours my kids spent in those car seats on a daily basis? And to think I was strapping them into their car seat to protect them, not to expose them to toxic chemicals.


The Ecology Center tested 15 infant, convertible and booster car seats and found that while most seats still contain dangerous chemicals, some companies have taken big steps towards reducing chemical hazards.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and over half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well. The study finds the hazardous flame retardant chemicals and alternatives used by companies are poorly regulated, putting consumers at risk, and questions the fire safety benefit of using these chemicals. Top rated companies in the study, Britax and Clek, have been aggressively implementing policies to reduce hazards in their products while still meeting all safety standards.  The poorest performing company was Graco.

The study is the fifth in series of studies identifying poorly regulated chemical hazards in car seats since 2006. has tested 377 car seats in the last 9 years.  Added flame retardant chemicals are not bound to the car seat materials and thus are released over time. Infants, toddlers and children can be exposed through inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) absorption of these chemicals.

According to Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, this is one more example of how the lack of regulation in cars has resulted in car interiors having some of the highest levels of hazardous chemicals, including flame retardants.

Here’s what The Car Seat Study found:

Graco’s Nautilus 3-in-1 car seat in Matrix, according to Ecology Center’s research, is one of the most toxic car seats.

Best 2014-15 Car Seats:

  • Britax Frontier and Marathon (Convertible)
  • Clek Foonf (Convertible)

Worst 2014-15 Car Seats:

  • Graco, My Size 65 (Convertible)
  • Baby Trend, Hybrid 3-in-1 (Convertible)

Other brands with products tested include: Chicco, Cybex, Dorel Juvenile Group (Eddie Bauer, Safety First), Evenflo, Harmony Juvenile, Orbit Baby, Peg Perego. To see if your car seat is on the list take a look HERE.

Here’s what you can do

  • Find a safer car seat. Check in with the retailer directly and ask about their use of toxic flame retardants.
  • Use your dollars and your voice to let car seat manufactures know that toxic flame retardants in car seats are unnecessary and unacceptable.
  • Occasionally vacuum the car seat and your car. According to Consumer Reports, this will help limit the amount of dust, which is where chemicals released from the seat or vehicle’s interior may settle.

Is your child’s car seat on the list? How can we get car seat manufacturers to remove toxic flame retardants from their products?


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March 6th, 2015

Mom Detective: My Hunt for a Flame Retardant Free Couch

toxic flame retardant in furniture Groovy Green Livin

This piece was originally published over at Moms Clean Air Force

Change is happening. As buyers continue to demand flame retardant-free furniture, manufacturers have no other option but to listen.

It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in the market place continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals.

There’s some good news to report.

Office Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

A group of companies that cumulatively spend over $520 million annually on office furniture have pledged to purchase furniture that contains no chemical flame retardants. By taking this pledge they are joining forces to demand their office furniture suppliers offer safer products without flame retardant chemicals.

This is a big shift in the right direction. With these companies taking the lead, they’re sending a strong message to all furniture companies that it’s time to end the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

According to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) a small group of office furniture companies have already committed to selling flame retardant-free furniture.

CEH also released the names of the corporations and government entities that have signed the CEH Purchaser’s Pledge. The companies on this list have taken a pledge to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals. Their commitment to purchase chemical-free furniture kicks off a national trend towards safer products made without flame retardants.

Some of the companies committing to purchase furniture made without toxic chemicals include: HDR Architecture (North America’s 2nd largest design firm, with 8,500 employees working in 200 locations worldwide), Facebook, Staples, Autodesk, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Residential Furniture and Toxic Flame Retardants

Back in 2013, a study of 102 couch samples (including one from Moms Clean Air Force’s Public Health Policy and Outreach Manager, Molly Rauch), were gathered from around the country and tested for the presence of flame retardant chemicals. An alarming 41% of the samples were found to contain chlorinated Tris, a carcinogenic flame retardant which was banned for use in baby pajamas in the 1970s.

Thankfully, there’s good news coming out of California. Beginning on January 1, 2015, companies that sell furniture in the state of California (manufacturers are applying this to products sold nationwide) are required to include a label that discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants. Check for the label underneath or on the back side of furniture.

These new safety regulations also allow upholstered furniture to be made without flame retardants. It’s important to note that these regulations don’t ban added flame retardants from furniture. Unfortunately, only products manufactured after January 1, 2015 will require the label, and mattresses are not required to be labeled. But again, it’s a step in the right direction.

The Chicago Tribune reported reported:

“…that major furniture retailers including Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, and Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, West Elm) all say they have mostly eliminated the chemicals from their products. IKEA, La-Z-Boy, The Futon Shop, Scandinavian Designs and Wal-Mart also said they have told vendors to stop adding flame retardants to furniture.”

The nation’s largest furniture company, Wisconsin-based Ashley Furniture, reported to the Chicago Tribune it is committed to making products that don’t contain flame retardants.

This is big news. According to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Ashley Furniture is not only the biggest furniture retailer in the US, they’re also the biggest manufacturer, and one of the biggest in the world with nearly $4 billion in sales. We now need Ashley Furniture to take the next step by announcing a clear public time frame for phasing out these chemicals in furniture foam and fabrics.

How to find flame retardant-free furniture

With the new safety regulations in place my search for chemical-free furniture just became a bit easier. While manufacturers aren’t required to remove flame retardants from their furniture, these new requirements are a few steps closer to transparency when it comes to our furniture purchases.

Let your dollars do the talking and seek out furniture retailers and manufacturers that commit to carrying furniture without toxic flame retardants.

  • Check if the company is on the CEH list and has removed all flame retardant chemicals from their furniture.
  • Ask retailers and manufacturers if the product/model you are considering is flame retardant-free.
  • Verify that the furniture you’re planning to purchase was manufactured after January 1, 2015.
  • Let retailers who continue to use toxic flame retardants know that you won’t be purchasing their products.
  • When purchasing furniture, use the NRDC guide and verify with the store that the product is flame retardant-free.
  • Look for the new label from companies that sell furniture in the state of California which discloses if upholstered furniture products contain flame retardants.

Are you in the market for a new couch? Will you ask if there are flame retardants before buying?


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


photo credit: Paragon Properties / Northville Woods via photopin (license)

December 18th, 2014

Hey Kroger: It’s Time to Take the Toxins Out

Kroger Take the Toxins Out Groovy Green Livin

Have you heard of Kroger? We don’t have Kroger in the Boston area, but I know it’s the primary grocery store in many of your cities and towns.

Kroger  is the largest grocery chain in the United States and one of the largest worldwide. They have over 3,500 stores and sales of over $98 billion.

I’ve been working with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and many others on a campaign called Mind the Store for almost a year. Remember when I went into Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from products they sell? I’ve also traveled to Washington DC– twice– to fight for safer products.

That same day that I headed into Walgreens I joined forces with many others. As part of the Mind the Store campaign we asked the nation’s top 10 retailers (including Walgreens and Kroger) to avoid carrying what are being calling the Hazardous 100+ toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, infertilitylearning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

Other big retailers like Walmart and Target have developed plans to screen out over 1,000 chemicals in products on their store shelves.

But not Kroger. Kroger has continued to be largely unresponsive to the campaign. It’s time to turn up some heat this holiday season.

Kroger still doesn’t have a comprehensive policy to screen out and eliminate toxic chemicals in their products. They have the power and a fundamental moral responsibility to ensure products on their store shelves, especially food, are safe and free of hormone-disrupting chemicals.

We have a BIG problem in our country. Toxins are basically unregulated and can make their way onto the shelves of our stores without our knowledge. That’s why we’ve been asking retailers to take the lead and create their own policies to insure safer products on the shelves of their stores.

If Target and Walmart can do it, so can Kroger! There’s a bit of good news: Kroger has taken some initial steps to eliminate certain chemicals like BPA in canned food. That’s a promising first step.

It’s time to tell Kroger they need to ensure packaged foods and other products they sell are safe, especially for children and pregnant women.

As many of us are getting ready for our big holiday meals for Christmas,Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, dangerous chemicals may be lurking in our favorite dishes.

Studies have shown toxic chemicals like phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects in baby boys and asthma in children, can migrate out of food packaging and get into the food we eat.

It’s not just toxic chemicals in food packaging.  Many consumer products contain chemicals that have been linked with chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes, chemicals that are getting into our bodies.

A recent study found children’s Halloween trick-or-treat bags laced with dangerous flame retardants sold at Kroger.  Kroger has reported selling over 150 products with hazardous chemicals harmful to children to the state of Washington under an innovative state law.  For example they reported selling tableware with formaldehyde, parabens in skin care products, and phthalates in children’s clothing.

Hope you’ll join me in telling Kroger it’s time to be a leader-it’s time to take the toxins out!

P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart via photopin cc

November 11th, 2014

Salon Workers are Exposed to Nasty Toxic Chemicals

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

Salons can be a pretty hazardous place to work given that many harmful chemicals can be found in salon products. I’m always reminded of this every time I walk into a salon for a haircut. The overwhelming smell from the products literally stops me in my tracks. Imagine the predominantly female workforce in hair and nail salons who are exposed to these chemicals for many hours at a time on a daily basis.

Women’s Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals in salon products harm the health of women working in salons.

This new report, Beauty and its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers,  is the the first ever to document how toxic chemicals lurking in hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and other salon products are harming the health of women who work in salons.

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

The report finds that salon workers are at an increased risk of cancer, miscarriages, neurological disorders, immune disorders, asthma, dermatitis and more.

The creation of safer products, better laws, and the use of best practices in salons can significantly reduce the health problems experienced by women working in salons.

Congress can pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure salon products are fully labeled and safe for salon worker health.

What the Report Shows

  • Harmful and irritating chemicals such as acetone, toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate are commonly found in salon air.
  • Cancer-causing formaldehyde can be released from hair straighteners and flat iron sprays when used with high heat.
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists may be more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves.
  • Studies have found increased risks of several types of cancer in hairdressers.
  • Nail salon workers have greater risk of immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Salon Workers Head to D.C. with Report in Hand

With the report as ammunition, Women’s Voices for the Earth is bringing salon workers to Washington DC this week to lobby Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. They’ll be telling their stories to lawmakers, federal agencies like the FDA, and the media about how their health has been harmed by toxic chemicals.

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. But as long as companies continue to use harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde (found in hair straighteners), styrene (found in hair extension and wig glue), and p-phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) salon worker’s health will continue to be threatened.

What’s the Solution for Salon Workers?

Women working in salons shouldn’t have choose between their health and their livelihoods. We can support these courageous women by asking our own Congressional representatives to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act HERE.

While we’re waiting for our government to act, salon workers and owners can take the following immediate actions:

  • Wear gloves
  • Use less toxic products
  • Improve salon ventilation systems
  • Don’t offer toxic salon services such as a Brazilian Blowout

Take a look at my picks for safe shampoos, nail polish and body lotion.

Salon workers deserve better. Don’t you agree?


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.

photo credit: spo0nman via photopin cc

November 10th, 2014

Why You Should Never Put Plastic in the Dishwasher

Groovy Green Livin plastic in dishwasher

Have you ever accidentally opened your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It’s like an instant facial. The steam and heat emitted are enough to make you jump back and close the door quickly.

The water is hot so your dishes are cleaned with minimal elbow grease. Did you know the water must be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit and not more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the best cleaning and to prevent damage to the dishes? That’s hot water!

What do you put in your dishwasher?

We have a relatively new dishwasher and for some reason it seems smaller than our older version. I still do my best to jam as many dishes into the dishwasher as I possibly can for a single load. Everything from plates to glasses to flatware goes right in without much of a rinse.

Over the years I’ve really weaned myself off of plastic in the kitchen. I’ve tried hard to reduce the amount of plastic touching our food in any way. For the few plastic items still remaining, they get washed by hand.

My rule: never put anything plastic in the dishwasher. And here’s why….

Heat and plastic are a bad mix

Repeated wear and tear on plastic, including running plastic through the dishwasher, could cause BPA, Phthalates and other chemicals to leach out of the plastic when heated.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics. Heating the plastic (stressing it) may cause more leaching of the chemicals. 


Phthalates are chemicals used as softeners or plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC, vinyl) products and can be found in hundreds of products: pre-2009 toys, wallpaper, cling wrap, shower curtains, plastic PVC containers, nail polish, perfume, blood bags, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoos, carpeting, wood finishes and insecticides (the list could go on and on).

Phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm counts and some preliminary studies show that they may be causing a slow and steady demasculinizing of men. Other studies have linked phthalates to liver cancer and breast cancer.

Unfortunately manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on products. Look out for “PVC,” “V” or the”3″ recycling code on the bottom of anything plastic.


As many of us know by now BPA is bad news. It’s a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And if that wasn’t enough there’s more:  “BPA-free” doesn’t mean it’s safe“. As new alternatives to BPA are popping up all over the place we have little information about their impact on our health.

The Bottom line

Hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost all plastics, even BPA-free plastics.

Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light.

I think I would rather hand wash plastics than risk those nasty chemicals leaching into my food.  How about you?

Are you ready to hand wash those plastic dishes?


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.



photo credit: Skakerman via photopin cc

November 3rd, 2014

Mom Detective on the Soccer Field: Is Artificial Turf Toxic?

Groovy Green Livin Artificial Turf

This post was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

It’s another gray, rainy day in New England and in a few short hours I’ll be driving a car filled with energetic young children to one of their four weekly soccer practices on a synthetic turf field. Unless thunder and lightening kick in their practice will go on, rain or even snow notwithstanding. The reason being an artificial turf field is almost always ready for play regardless of the weather.

For this reason and more the demand for artificial turf fields has grown to the point where more than “8,000 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields can be found throughout North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf and, since 2003, over 70 FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup matches have been played on synthetic turf soccer fields.

Artificial turf was originally invented by Monsanto in the early 1960’s and has taken several forms since then, with the most recent being “crumb rubber”. This type of artificial turf, which contains tiny black crumbs of rubber made from old car tires, can contain zinc, benzene, carbon black and lead, among other toxic substances.  As many parents well know, these “black crumbs” travel home in our children’s shoes, uniforms and hair and ultimately end up on the floor of our cars and homes.

Now we’re learning those black crumbs may be doing more harm than good. Soccer coach Amy Griffin began doing her own investigation  when two of her goalkeepers from the University of Washington were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She compiled a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies who have been diagnosed with cancer. Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player, winner of the reality-television series “Survivor”, co-founder of Grassroot Soccer and a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor has had similar findings. He’s compiled a list of 50 or so goalkeepers who’ve battled cancer.

“Since I’ve been public about my cancer journey, lots of soccer players that have or had cancer have reached out to me via social media etc. I noticed a weird similarity…many were keepers. Then Amy Griffin, the coach at University of Washington reached out because she noticed the same trend. Not all were the same age, but most were young adults, between 15-39.”

Both lists are not scientifically based, but the sheer number of players (especially goalkeepers) diagnosed with cancer is something that can’t be ignored and they raise concerns about the potential risks of playing on artificial turf.

Zohn started playing soccer when he was 6 years old and really began playing on turf when he was out of college. He freely admits that “the likelihood that playing on crumb rubber turf caused my cancer is very slim”, but goes on to add “kids growing up on artificial turf today with long term repetitive exposure is different.”

When asked why he thinks goalkeepers were taking the brunt of the diagnoses, Zohn responded with this:

“A dedicated goalkeeper trains differently than the others. We are in constant contact with the ground in many different ways. Some training sessions are 90 minutes of just diving to save low balls. We sit, stretch, dive, roll in it. We are down low and breathing the air, injesting rubber, it gets in our cuts, eyes, mouth, nose. On hot days the temp is 10 degrees hotter on turf. Add some water and you boil the stuff. “

As parents we should not have to sleuth around the playground making sure equipment and fields are free from toxic chemicals, nor should we have to tell our children that they can’t play a sport outside because it could make them sick.

If there are potential health hazards they need to be regulated before our children are playing and rolling around on them. It’s time to take the burden away from parents and place it where it belongs – with industry. Our government need to regulate toxic chemicals by requiring a more thorough health testing of products BEFORE known carcinogens end up in our children’s playgrounds, fields and ultimately in their bodies.

What can we do about artificial turf?

Last weekend I was sitting on the sidelines at my son’s soccer game when a group of concerned parents began discussing the dangers of artificial turf fields . While I was angry that there needed to be a discussion, it was refreshing to hear that parents were taking this seriously. The discussion led to the 20 million dollar question: “What can we do?”

Here are a few suggestions for concerned parents and children:

  • Wash your hands immediately after playing on a turf field. Showering is probably the best idea.
  • Encourage your children to take off their cleats and socks outside your home, so as not to track in the “black crumbs”.
  • Advocate for team benches on the sidelines so the players don’t have to sit directly on the artificial turf.
  • Request that goalkeeper training take place on the natural grass, not on the turf.
  • Encourage discussion in your city or town about the safety of these fields. Be present and vocal if your community is contemplating installing an artificial turf field or playground.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is badly broken. It allows chemicals onto the market without adequate safety testing. It’s time to change that.


 Do your kids play sports on an artificial turf field?


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photo credit: Bronski Beat via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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